Germany cuts Greece slack on asylum seekers

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Germany on Wednesday became the latest EU state to stop sending asylum seekers back to Greece to give Athens time to improve its badly overcrowded detention facilities for migrants.

"The decision is limited to one year because the ministry believes that Greece will be able to improve conditions substantially during this period," the interior ministry said.

Other European countries including Britain, Sweden and Norway have taken similar measures.

Under the European Union's Dublin II regulation, illegal immigrants must be sent back to the country where they entered the 27-nation European Union.

About 75 percent of more than 40,000 people caught illegally entering the EU in the first half of 2010 did so through Greece, mostly crossing the border from non-EU Turkey.

But Greece cannot cope. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak last October described detention facilities as filthy, overcrowded and frequently "inhuman."

Greece has come under fire for plans to block part of its border with Turkey at what has become the main entry point for illegal border crossers, with 32,500 people detained there between January and November last year.

© 2011 AFP

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